XXIII. The LaLauren Mansion

The memory unfolded in a setting strangely familiar, and Eleanor only realized that it was in the very mansion she was currently in. She found Cephas on the floor, bleeding and struggling to move. She followed his gaze towards the balcony and found a little boy balancing upon the edge of a great fall. Then, she realized it was Sunday. That Sunday.

“James…listen to me, don’t…please…”

From the narratives she watched, Eleanor knew, Cephas, no, Soulran’s very pain. It was all the same as that time. History shall repeat: the nightmare buried under the years of abuse should resurface and haunt him anew. As the little boy stood upon the edge, Soulran dragged himself towards the boy in vain, while LaLauren stood across the room to watch in amusement and rid his hands of blood with a handkerchief.

“Please…he has nothing to do with this…” Soulran begged of the villain, who merely smiled, amused as the boy known as James leaned forward. Soulran cried out and made a grasp at thin air, but all was too late. The boy was no more.

Soulran collapsed against the balcony railings, his head bowed to anguished contemplation, silenced by pain.

The agony became all-encompassing that, as Eleanor reached out to Soulran, the floor tilted, spun, and the strings loosened and the scene drifted into darkness.

“Eleanor…Eleanor…” she came about to the teary face of her brother, whose grip upon her arm became just a little painful.

She tore her attention from him, glancing over the children about her and studying without understanding how the blacken cast of ashes and coal could be the same mansion meant to be her temporary safe house. Perhaps it was more fitting, for the fires had consumed ornate baroqueness and revealed the hellish center.

Then she remembered, “Soulran!?” Her audience were clearly confused, so she sprung upon her feet and looked for him herself.

Her search was brief, for he was but a few steps away from her, faint, deathly pale, and still. She wanted to cry, but thought the gesture to be a dangerous assumption of his doom. So one can only imagine her surprise, when she stooped to examine him to find not only the faint music of his pulse and breaths, but also that his mortal wounds are he. She grasped his intact hand in a passion.

“Soulran?” He stirred, though still locked in the rest he long deserved. “Soulran…” She squeezed his hand to assure that he was still there.

Sirius tapped her on the shoulder with a note of triumphal urgency, “Did you hear that?”

She strained to hear in the mists of uncertainty the harsh clicks and creaks that she later realized to be the sound of an approaching carriage. Paranoia commanded her to run and hide, but she stood her ground, prepared to welcome the worse.

To her disbelief a familiar figure came to view, overwhelming her with utmost excitement and relief, “Elliot!”

The servant answered with equal joy, though immediately thrown into panic by the state of the mansion and his young lady’s bruised cheek and the ring of ruffled children his young master had lost himself in with his equally ashened looks. After collecting himself, Elliot explained his well-timed visit.

“Your mother thought your description of the manor most suspicious and sent me here to ensure your safety…and it seems that her fears are very much justified.” At this point he glanced at Soulran. “Let us make haste then, and explanations can follow our journey.”

It took them a while to settle into the carriage with some of the children being especially unsettled with their beloved guardian in such a comatose state. At last they set out, with the little ones on one side and Eleanor on the other cradling Soulran’s head upon her lap. Elliot turned a blind eye of the impropriety and took to steering.

Eleanor stared intently out of the windows of the carriage, attempting to distinguish the LaLauren Mansion out of the untrimmed branches and tangled trees as they drew further away. She caught its dark outline against the pale blue sky, and shuddered as she was reminded that the architecture now served as a crumbling, nameless tombstone of one undeserved to be buried.

She drew the velvet ribbon and allowed the veil fall across her view upon the narrative that she hoped to forget.

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